THAT'S THE WAY I LIKE ITPG-13
'Inspired by' or perhaps we should say 'shamelessly ripped off from' Saturday Night Fever, the Singaporean musical That's The Way I Like It has all the wrong moves. Hock (Adrian Pang) has a dead-end life which is suddenly given meaning by an inadvertent viewing of the film Forever Fever, a low-budget version of the John Travolta classic. He enters a disco competition, hoping to win money to buy the motorbike he dreams of. His family and friends think he's crazy but not, however, as crazy as his brother (Caleb Goh), a promising med student who suddenly decides to become a woman.
If there is, indeed, an Asian equivalent for 'Uncle Tom-ing,' this movie might easily be said to represent it. In terms of depicting the lives of young Singaporeans, it's a complete cartoon, but not so much funny as downright embarrassing. As mentioned, it's woefully bereft of originality in concept and the execution is likewise hamhanded. Perhaps to avoid 'uncommercial' subtitles, writer-director Glen Goei has his cast speak English-well, a kind of English, to be exact. The squawky, abrasive pidgin dialect that emerges from his actors' mouths is both off-putting and demeaning, unfortunately rendering the characters more coolie than cool. The music draws heavily on '70s disco hits from the likes of the Bee Gees and Dan Hartman, but even these are not the originals, merely watered-down copycat versions of the type that are sold in any Asian street market. So one is even deprived of the aural pleasure of hearing those mindlessly bouncy, nostalgic songs. The choreography itself, when it isn't blatantly stealing from Saturday Night Fever, is supremely undistinguished. (Goei even uses a double for Pang in the climactic number.) While we're carping, the 'Travolta' character who magically descends from the screen, in a particularly cruddy special effect, not only speaks with a Southern accent more appropriate to Elvis, but, as the only white character in the movie, is infuriatingly also the only one who can give guidance to the hapless Hock. Goei, with terrifying hubris, restages whole scenes out of Saturday Night Fever, like the combative family dinner sequence. (It's as if the big boys at Miramax, who bought the film, saw the original and thought, 'Wouldn't it be funny if they were all Chinese?' and then actually found a movie in which they were.) The luckless ladies who partner Hock are mere repeats of the snippily ambitious poser and blue-collar good-time gal once essayed by Karen Lynn Gorney and Donna Pescow. The cast is physically most attractive, but completely stymied by the idiocy of what they're required to do. (Pang, who's a bit mature for his part, mugs away at a furious rate to express any given emotion.) Goei's one fresh idea is that subplot involving the gender-confused brother. This, however, is just more clich, thrown in to add a patented poignancy to the otherwise predictably triumphant ending.